Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Third Eye

"Mommy, can you play detective with me now?" Grayson asks seconds after I finish mowing the backyard. Which was moments after mowing our front yard and neighbor's too. (Neighbor clipped our grass often when Andy was deployed.)

"Yes, but let me grab a drink and a sit for a minute.

Audible boy sigh...

"Honey? Do you know what it's like to put yourself in someone else's shoes?"

"What do you mean, like trying to put their shoes on?"

"No. Like imagine what it's like to be them. Imagine what it's like to do what they do."

"No. I can't do that. I can't imagine that hard."

"I think you can. You should try it...look outside, do you see that man pushing the heavy mower up the..."

"Mommy? I will wait for you outside, OK?"

Audible mommy sigh...


The truth is, it is hard to imagine what others do and feel. It's not something kids should have to do yet. They should be allowed to frolic, feel happy, and have play mates in the form of their parents. Shame on me for pushing grown up social constructs on innocent egos.

I shouldn't be here trying to convince my 6 year old why I need a quick rest before having a good time with him. I should just shut up, guzzle some H20 and get on with our important detective work.

But something in me doesn't let it go.

Ever since I can remember, I always imagined what it was like to be someone else. What Karen Campbell's hairbrush might look like when she showed up to school with one long sandy braid tightly tucked into place. With even longer red ribbons, marking their territory with a curly wave.

I wanted to know what my teacher ate for lunch in that sad little brown paper bag all alone in her classroom.

I never stopped imagining why Oscar's nose always ran or why he smelled like caramel apples and cigarette smoke.

It felt like I knew too much all the time.

This way of being, The Third Eye my mom called it, kept me being from bored pretty much ever. And it served to help me know whom I could really trust.

All this wondering about how other people live, what they do, how their smiles immediately disappeared or lingered a bit on their face after greeting their "friends" in the hallway. This is how I began to understand the separation between outside and in. How the two are chronically dissonant. Only young young children keep them the same. They haven't learned how to be untrue yet.

We moved around a lot when I was little so I learned quickly how to discern the outside but "hear" the in. The real inside voices, I understood, was something most everyone protected. You had to watch carefully but not even for very long and I did. Because I wanted to. I wanted to cut through the bullshit.

This way of being never stopped for me. I was like the Theresa Caputo of social awareness. This skill, or curse as it sometimes feels, has aged along with me and has revealed people as arm's length or quick bonds within seconds.

The Third Eye sees nuances, reads hand placement, and catches eyebrow lifts like a detective figuring out a crime scene: everything will show itself if you sort through the data categorically.

This paying close attention to the real inside voices has even kept me safe in a few questionable romantic relationships. Once I fell for a guy with shark black eyes. He was a poet with wide shoulders. I ignored all the signs: his inappropriate smile, his shifty hands, and the way he walked next to me without any warmth at all. One minute alone with him and his inside voice came booming loud and clear that it was time to leave. I didn't even look back once. The chill up my spine told me to everything I needed to know.

Now, as a mother this Third Eye is eeking into my children's lives but I'm not sure it has place there yet.

I want my kids to feel child-like for a while longer, before they can't anymore. To dream of cotton candy and playing Tag on the playground instead of reckless wind storms and scary home invasions.

Children have a right to be protected from the real inside voices of people around them when those voices aren't pure or genuine.

It's my hope that the people surrounding them now (trusted family, real friends, young children) are still mostly good, happy, and in harmony with their outside bodies. That there isn't much false advertising going on quite yet.

But there will be. It's just what happens. I doubt it will be long before my children cultivate their own Third Eye and soon they'll be cutting through the bullshit too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Implicit Trust

Last night my husband sat down very close to me and said, "I don't know what I'm going to do with you."

He was holding two bags of dishwasher packets in his hands.

Or at least I totally thought they were dishwasher packets.

You'd think the little pictures of washing machines would be all the help I need but nooo...

I still did maybe four loads of dishes in our dishwasher using packets of laundry detergent.

The really funny thing?

So did my sweet trusting husband.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beauty in the Weeds

Skipped the gym this morning in favor of coming home to walk both dogs.

How do I forget (every day) this never works out.  I cannot walk two dogs.  I can stop, start, lurch backward, skitter forward until my brain becomes a roiling kettle of pissed offness.  That, I can do.

Sadie doesn't even go on a leash anymore because she is perfect knows her parameters but she does push her limits often by trotting up driveways and into open garage doors if I'm not looking at her every second.

Sparrow takes a different approach to walking.  She attempts to thunder off into the great unknown by way of ripping my shoulder blade out of its socket.  Sister is strong too so has almost gotten her wish a few times over.

So, there I this morning with my Nikon lens strapped in my front like a third boob, three poop bags shoved into my pocket, and naive optimism in my step.

A few houses into our walk, I see this:

An Autumn Ombre Tree!
 (Can you see something else?  Don't worry, I had plenty of bags.)

What Sparrow sees is an opportunity:

Now, the time is now.  Pull it out, pull the stuck thing until I am free.  Keeeep pulllingggg....keeep pulllinnggg...

"Sparrow!  Stop!  Sparrow, Ow!  Sparrow, NO!"

Great, now I have to start all over.  Food Lady all upset about her imaginary bird again.  She is such a weirdo.

And so on.

The few pics captured I thought would probably reflect my mood:  ugly, out of focus, and rotten.

What I saw, however, when reviewing the images were little glimmers of pretty inside the mess.



Today, I celebrate beauty found in the weeds.  Even if there are lots and lots of weeds.  Grrrr....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Urban Sherpa

I have this recurring daydream. 

First, I am hopping on a plane to Nepal.  The flight is more like sailing smoothly over water rather than hurling through the clouds.

When I land, someone kind meets me at the airport.  He knows what I look like.

We drive to a faraway but not at all scary village.  Here, a few more kind hearts show me to my room.

A room that is no more than a bed, see-through linens, and half walls showing a landscape that breathes for you.

I am dazed but the kind hearts expect that.

They leave me with my bags to feel hungry.

With senses that are surfacing red hot,  I am torn between sage and smoke.  All of me is both cozy and afraid in these new surroundings.   It's so quiet here, I am holding breaths to fit in.  A land like this is harder than it appears.

I try again to feel hungry but nothing registers because too much is happening in my head and nothing feels separate yet.  It's going to be work to sort things out, I remind myself.

Home is all systems go, full blast, add more coal to the belly of my own ashes.  
     Ah, but this is not home. 

Here I sit contemplating western psychologies when my eyes find the softest, most delicious sheets before my hands can.

Holy sh*t, my hands!  What has happened to my hands?!

The last time I looked, mine were young, playful, and ripe.  

These hands here on the bed are so different.  They are serious, intricate, more scarred than my own. Millions of tiny triangles occupy east to west and north to south only to ripple over knuckles that must be deep valleys where all the water goes.

I am here.  In Nepal.  With these wise old hands ready to hold a new fruit.  Embrace a new friend.  Speak a new language and help the rest of me catch up with the grace and purpose of a slow soak.

 The Urban Sherpa 

When do we #*!@ leave?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God or John Lennon?

For the past few months Grayson has described God the same way.  "Mommy, he has tall wavy hair that is tan.  He is wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans.  He is wearing glasses and brown shoes." 

My mom and I joke that only a member of our family would see God as John Lennon. 

But yet, the descriptors are always the same. 

"How do you know what he looks like, Honey?"  The scientist in me has to prod.

"Because I see what he looks like."

"You see God in front of you?"

"No, Mommy.  Not in front of me.  He puts that picture of him in my mind."

"Do you still talk to him?"


"When do you talk to him?"

"Like when something is frust-er-ating.  I ask God to help me."

"And does he?"

"Yes. I get to figure it out after that."

"That must be nice, to be able to have such a big helper all the time."

"Yes, Mommy.  You should ask him for help too.  It is less monies than coffee."

"You're right, Grayson.  God is way less monies than any latte in the world.  And much more effective.  You're a smart boy, I'm very proud of you."

And just like that, I am once again schooled by a kindergartner. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Birthdays, Reunions & Break-Ins

Grab your slippers and a bookmark, this one's a doozy.

We had a weekend built around Caped Crusaders.


Although today is Grayson's official 6th birthday, we celebrated it on Saturday afternoon.

 (Those are Tshirt capes.  I made them!  They all seemed to like them except Grayson.  He didn't wear his for one minute.  Stupid Mom with her stupidPinterest.)

 Once the moonbounce was set up and the tables decorated, we had two well coiffed solicitors mosey up the driveway to try to sell me magazines and children's bibles.


These men were trying to pass themselves off as high school boys working hard to make money for college.  Between their poorly covered up neck tattoos and their slick (well rehearsed) talking, I knew right away they were not as interested in selling Highlights as they were surveying our living situation and the contents of our garage.

One of the men knelt down to talk to Abby and Sparrow.  Sparrow growled.  I let her.

"Be careful, we just got her.  She's unpredictable," my instincts warned..

Handsome solicitor continued to try winning over Sparrow as his eyes darted from her to Andy's mountain bike.  Second stranger smiled brightly while keeping his shoulders pointed toward the street.  Both men gave away their day jobs with every fiber of their body language. I respectfully declined their advances by letting them know we are a military family (guns in the house, go away now before I go get one) who does not take kindly to strangers (sick him, Sparrow).

They scampered down the driveway without much fuss and wished my superhero a Happy Birthday.

The day went on beautifully as seven of Grayson's buddies sweat themselves silly before pounding the tar out of a Batman pinata.

 (Strategically located.  Just kidding.  We moved Batman.)

We ate hot pizza,


delicious superhero cake (compliments of my sis-in-law, isn't it awesome?),


and enjoyed a most excellent time with our friends.


Old friends and new friends. 

 (Sweaty haired me with Baby D and his supermodel mama.)

 (This is the same baby D I helped fake doula into the world a few weeks ago.  Weeks old and smiling already.  Isn't he moon beams?)

The night came upon me quickly.  My 20th high school reunion was happening in a couple of hours.  I had successfully dodged the actual event but happily accepted an invitation to have a pre-reunion dinner with some friends I haven't seen since graduation day back in 1874.

One problem.  I just threw a birthday party.  Going out anywhere, much less trying to look nice meant a miracle needed to take place to transform my Frantic-mom-ragdoll-hair look to Of-course-I-always-wear-this-push-up-bra evening look.

I needed a shower, smelling salts, and some Spanx.

Alas, I only had mere 30 minutes to pull my sh*t together and get myself out of the door and into a Bethesda parking garage.  In Andy's truck because mine (along with my GPS!) was in the shop.  So there I was without a GPS, scribbled directions on a Post-It note in one hand and handling the very same truck I once reversed onto a fire hydrant in the other.  A recipe for success if ever there was one.  At least I had on something understated and safe.

Understated as a disco ball.

Believe it or not, I only needed to circle East-West Highway twice before finding a garage.  For free, no less, score!
 (FYI:  Alvin the Chipmunk pumping a fist is never a cute look.)

I found one friend sitting with her husband and sat down gawkwardly across from them.  Within seconds I shed my coat and far too many intimate details of my life. Panicky oversharing:  it's a gift.

Friend One sweetly helped me calm the freak down by handing over a menu while the rest of our party showed up.

First K, then R, then M!  I could practically see the years flash before my eyes as we scrambled for each other and hugged tightly singing and humming how good it was to "...finally see you again."

I'm pretty sure I even cupped R and M's face in my hand like I was their great Aunt Matilde so proud of the beautiful ladies they have become.

But I am.  So very proud of the beautiful ladies they have become.  Each one is gorgeous, wip-smart, and hugely successful in their own right.

I was the only SAHM in the bunch and it made me both embarrassed and exotic.  Some ladies who work full time outside of the home looked at me longingly while others gave me that sideways eyeball, waiting for me to order a barrel of wine instead of only one glass. 

I ordered only one glass.

Conversation flowed easily and criss-crossed over a table of nachos, uneaten salads, and empty glasses.

As I was beginning to slip out of my shoes and really dig in to the night, L and S strolled through the door....SURPRISE!  I didn't know they were coming!  Joyous rapture, more childhood treasures dating as far back as Kindergarten.  We knew each other before training bras and JAM shorts.

Yes, I cried softly to myself and took a thousand million mental pictures of each of their faces:  M's soft waves around a palette of those gorgeous freckles I've missed so much over the years.  L's pretty smile and warm giggles that made me want to hyperspace back in time to when we would play together in her backyard making mud pies while our mothers sang country tunes in her kitchen.  There was S's silky black hair and her same kind, calm presence dating back to our monkey bar days .  K's quick sense of humor unmatched by boyfriends, husbands or BFFs.  R's sparkling eyes that show me she still loves me after all these years too.  We were all inside jokes and choke-y tears.

It could not have been a better mini reunion.

I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude and love for these girls women that at two points in the evening I had to talk myself out of passing out right onto the table.  As in vertigo, body tingles, and tunnel vision.  Maybe my one glass of wine should've been preceded by two glasses of water.

When it was time for my dear friends to walk to their main event, I felt heavy in the chest.  Why didn't I just buy the darn reunion ticket in time?  Why not spend even more time with these people I never get to see?  What about the other dear friends just around the corner?  What about more wine?

But my truth keeps me grounded.  I am no good in crowds.  Anxieties win every time and turn conversation into a staccato exchange of useless small talk.

I got what I came for.  Here, at this dark bar in Bethesda and its undercooked potato skins, I had the chance of a lifetime to hold several meaningful conversations with solidly awesome people of my past.  And it was good.  It was exactly what I had hoped for. 

Unwilling to let go without a scene, I held my arms wide and tortured each one (and their patient spouses) with yet another girl hug.  A goodbye hug.  An I love you hug.  A Please Know This Night Has Meant the World to Me hug.

Then I walked back to the Bethesda parking garage alone and filled with tears that wouldn't dare fall and ruin such a perfectly spectacular evening.

(Bookmark goes here, come back after you check FB.)

The next morning Andy and I walked our dogs and our kids (in that order) around our neighborhood.  We saw three police officers parked in front of a neighbor's house.

Never a good sign.

One officer came over to us to let us know there had been a house break-in and the thieves got away with lots of things.

"Did you see or hear anything unusual last night?" the officer asked.

No we told him in new concern and fresh worry.

Then I remembered the handsome strangers from right before Grayson's party.  Could it have been them?  Is that why typically quiet Sparrow got snarly?

After hearing from a few neighbors, I think it is quite likely it was them.  They were definitely running a scam and up to no good.

I'm so very thankful for Sparrow who growled at them the second she could.

And I'm so very thankful I had the foresight to let her.

 After a weekend like this one?  Pass that barrel of wine, please.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Heart Spell Check

When I was in the 9th grade I did something completely out of character for introverted me.  I spoke up in Social Studies class.

We were having a debate over how to spell the word "vacuum."  The girl who had just taken my ex-boyfriend spoke up on the opposing team.

We were at a total impasse.  The entire class knew about our heated boyfriend history.  They also knew I would never confront anyone, unless it was her.  So there I was, making my stand with one word and full on girl eye contact.

"Two c's." I stated as fact.

"Two u's." She returned just as poisonously. 

"Could someone please go get the Dictionary?  We'll settle this fair and square," implored the teacher who was giddy over an impassioned classroom war.

Someone fetched the Dictionary and read, "Vacuum.  V-A-C..."

I held my breath.


After the second "U" my entire body filled up with icy hot right up to my earrings.

"Two u's," Boyfriend Stealer said like she was sitting on his lap.

Needless to say, I rarely trust my spelling anymore and use spell check whenever possible.  God Bless the person who got tired of people using i after e especially after c.

Spell check has saved my goose on more than one occasion (see, right there) and here is proof I cannot live without it.

My 80something year old neighbor is recovering from knee surgery.  This is his third surgery in one year and it's taking a toll on him and his wife.  We wanted to bring them dinner so the kids made cookies and what I think are super cute place mats.  Abby and I cooked them soup today.  We had the perfect plan.

The perfect plan until I had to grab a pen and spread my wings without my beloved spell check.

Here, see if you spot it.

Sadly, I didn't realize my mistake until after we delivered the goods.  Oh well, we can only hope this wonderful couple is distracted by the kids' fancy handiwork on their place mats.

Maybe they'll think the kids did the labels too :) 

 There it is.  Do you see it?  Vacuum all over again.  In the form of two Ls instead of one.  I spelled broccoli wrong.  
May she never know I taught English to 6th through 12th graders just a couple of years ago.  I hear they have Smart Boards in the classroom now.  Tons of spell check wings there I'm banking on in case I ever get back to that profession.  That is, if the English Department hasn't revoked my diploma yet.

Oh spell check, you had me at vacuum.

What is your word that you always get wrong?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thawing Out

If you've been following along on the FB OSMA page, you will already know the background story to this post. 

If not, the only important piece of information is to know Andy and I had a date night at a race track on Saturday.  We went to see Sprint cars race around like crazy go karts around a dirt track.  The sound was what a teenage boy would sound like if he were motorized:  thrilling buzz  with an occasional punch of fuel and hop around the corners not giving in to the rules of gravity or speed.

I was prepared for the loud.  We packed earplugs.

My hair was a sponge for the mix of fuel burnoff, Boardwalk fries, and Swisher Sweet cigars surrounding us in the bleachers.  It was a party like never I've been.  Like being welcomed to your boyfriend's hometown for the Homecoming game.  Everyone wore plaid and a curious smile.

What I didn't account for was the cold.  Once the moon peeped through clouds, it was so cold you could see puffs of smoke like conversation bubbles.  (Women's puffs a little steamier than the men's.)

I tried my hardest not to whine about being cold because everyone warned me.  "Bring a jacket."  "Pack an extra layer."  "Got your coat?"  My in-laws reminded me assuming my jeggings and boots probably weren't going to stave off frostbite.

They were right.  I couldn't feel my toes by 10pm.

I huddled literally under Andy's arm for the remainder of the race.  After maybe 7 false starts and "do-overs" I finally let myself drift off to that place you go when you listen but you don't feel.  I could only hear the comforting thump of Andy's heartbeat through his thigh, the whizzing of Sprint cars maxing out their speed, and the occasional "In field, you suck!" from regulars who get that.

By 1am, we packed it in and called it a night.  The race was continuing on without us but the freezing plank of bleacher we were parked on became an ice block and even Andy was shivering.

The next morning, we thawed out in the sun.

I tried to hide from my family (again, it's a thing) in the backyard but Abby found me and covered me with blankets, gave me pillows, and a stuffed ballerina.

I didn't even know a picnic table could be such refuge.

Here we are during The Thaw:

 Busted.  Mom has been awake the whole time.

 He was smiling because he could feel his face again.

 My two wingmen.

My favorite picture because Pop is leaning in to take pictures of Sadie instead of the freakshow that is his daughter-in-law camped out on a table in the backyard.  They're used to my shenanigans by now.  In fact, the whole family is.  At one point Abby came to plop a plate on my back and eat off my body like I wasn't even there.

I guess it was a pretty good hiding spot after all.